Tag: state party chairperson

BREAKING NEWS: Martha Laning elected Wisconsin Democratic chairwoman

It’s official…former Wisconsin State Senate candidate Martha Laning is the new chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. According to Shawn Johnson of Wisconsin Public Radio, here are the official results:

  1. Martha Laning – 721 (53.45%)
  2. Jason Rae – 428 (31.73%)
  3. Joe Wineke – 191 (14.16%)
  4. Stephen Smith – 6 (0.44%)
  5. Jeff Smith – 3 (0.22%)

A total of 1,349 valid votes were cast for a chair candidate by delegates and alternates who were elevated to delegate status prior to the vote. Of the five chair candidates, Jeff Smith dropped out of the race right before the DPW Convention and officially nominated Laning, however his name remained on the ballot.

Laning ran on, among other things, identifying the cause of lower turnout in midterm elections, promising a more inclusive Democratic Party of Wisconsin, providing more financial and technical support to county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin, encouraging Democratic candidates in Wisconsin to use values-based messaging based at least loosely on George Lakoff-style messaging (more on that here), and helping candidates use foreign-language materials to reach out to Wisconsin voters who don’t speak English as their first language. In short, Laning has promised a stronger, more inclusive Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and I will hold her accountable to her promises.

For a while, it appeared for quite a while that Jason Rae was going to win the chair’s race easily. However, many of Rae’s staunchest supporters attacked Laning, me, and everyone else that opposed Rae in any way, shape, or form, and Rae himself had a royalist mindset throughout his campaign. Another problem that gave Rae nothing but trouble during his campaign was his affiliation with Nation Consulting, a Milwaukee-based political consulting firm. As I wrote about a month ago, Thad Nation, the head of Nation Consulting and Rae’s employer, used a political front group to give tens of thousands of dollars to right-wing political organizations that have strongly opposed Democratic and progressive causes. I’m not sure how many delegates I managed to persuade to vote for a non-Rae candidate with that blog post, if any, but I can say that it certainly didn’t help Rae’s campaign at all.

Additionally, Laning benefited from the implosion of the Jeff Smith campaign for chair. About a week or so before the convention, Jeff Smith sent a letter to delegates, which was received by at least one DPW official that I know of, in which Jeff Smith offered Laning a job if he had been elected. Laning responded by criticizing Jeff Smith for using campaign literature to tout a job offer without her permission. That ended any chance of Jeff Smith being elected chair, so he bowed out right before the convention, and, in a move that helped solidify Laning’s “party unity” credentials, Laning allowed Jeff Smith to officially nominate her for chair.

Initially, I despised Laning and her candidacy. When I first heard that Laning was going to run for DPW Chair, I thought that she’d be a terrible candidate for DPW Chair, as I initially viewed her as a candidate of appeasement towards Republicans. However, when Jeff Smith dropped out of the race, I reviewed Laning’s plans for the DPW, and I quickly realized that Laning would be the best candidate to lead the Democratic Party in the state that could be the most critical to a national Democratic victory next year. I sincerely apologize to Martha Laning and her supporters for my criticisms of her campaign prior to Jeff Smith exiting the race for DPW Chair.

One person I will credit for Laning’s victory (other than Laning herself, who obviously deserves most of the credit), is Lori Compas, a professional photographer and the organizer of the unsuccessful, but valiant, recall attempt against Republican Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in 2012. While the endorsement of Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout was the first noteworthy endorsement that Laning received, Compas endorsed Laning early on in her campaign, and, when Compas endorsed Laning, that was the first time I viewed Laning as a serious candidate for DPW chair. Laning’s coalition of support represented a cross-section of the DPW, ranging from ultra-progressives like former Madison Common Council member Satya Rhodes-Conway to centrists like Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris. For all the talk about Vinehout’s political instincts, nobody in Wisconsin has better political instincts than Lori Compas, and Laning’s victory is an example of that.

Martha Laning is going to have a lot of pressure to lead the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to victory next year, because Wisconsin is probably the one state that is going to decide control of the White House and the U.S. Senate in the 2016 elections.

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Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae employed by firm founded by individual that provided money to Koch-funded organizations

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have made edits to the blog post and title to accurately reflect Nation Consulting founder Thad Nation’s use of a 501(c)(4) organization to give money to right-wing organizations and Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s employment by Nation Consulting.

I’ve found information that proves that Thad Nation, Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s boss at Nation Consulting, has provided money to at least seven right-wing organizations, including at least four that are funded either directly or indirectly by the Koch Brothers. Nation himself was listed in a 2012 IRS 990 filing as the principal officer of Coalition for the New Economy (CftNE), a 501(c)4 organization that opposes government-run broadband internet services in areas where private-sector firms currently provide broadband internet service. CftNE has also given money to at least several right-wing political groups that have actively opposed Democratic and liberal political candidates, have actively supported Republican and conservative political candidates, and/or have advocated for far-right policies that would have a negative impact on America. Here’s the organizations that CftNE has given money to, according to page 17 of the 2012 IRS filing by that organization:

  • $15,000 for “general support” to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a right-wing anti-tax organization that has, among other things, effectively supported allowing the U.S. federal government to default on the national debt. NTU has received a total of $32,500 from the Koch Family Foundations from 1998 to 2008, including $5,000 from Charles Koch’s own foundation in 2008.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF), a right-wing organization that spent $1.9 million in television advertising in an attempt to help Republicans win U.S. House races that were seriously contested by both major parties in the 2012 elections. CIF spent a slightly larger amount of money on a similar effort in the 2010 elections.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Americans for Prosperity (AfP), a far-right political organization founded by the Koch Brothers themselves. In Wisconsin, AfP spent $866,000 in ads designed to help Scott Walker win the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race and approximately $2.9 million in ads in opposition to the 2012 recall effort against Walker that was strongly supported by Wisconsin progressives.
  • $10,000 for “general support” to FreedomWorks, a far-right organization that has, among other things, ran several anti-union campaigns in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and supported far-right extremist Chris McDaniel, who, among other things, blamed rap music for many of our country’s problems, in his unsuccessful 2014 Republican primary challenge to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a right-wing organization that was founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and, among other things, opposes taxation and supports privatizing Social Security. IPI has received $35,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is identified by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch as one of the four Koch Family Foundations. IPI is the only one of the organizations listed in the CftNE filing that is a 501(c)(3) organization; all of the others are listed as 501(c)(4) organizations.
  • $15,000 for “general support” to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a right-wing organization that has, among other things, attacked the federal government over the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, two of the largest cable television providers in the country.
  • $14,740 for “general support” to the 60 Plus Association (60 Plus), a right-wing organization funded by Koch Brothers-funded organizations like Freedom Parners and American Encore as part of a complex web of Koch Brothers-funded organizations. In Wisconsin, 60 Plus ran this advertisement attacking now-Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin for supporting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal legislation that provided millions of Americans with health insurance.

That’s a total of $69,740 that Thad Nation has, through CftNE, provided to right-wing organizations that have supported Republicans like Scott Walker, ran smear campaigns against Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, and have supported far-right policies that would make America a much worse place to live. Thad Nation is also the same person who employs Jason Rae as a senior associate at Nation Consulting, and Rae is running for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. If Rae is elected DPW Chair, it would be at least an apparent conflict of interest for someone like Rae to be the head of a state-level Democratic organization if he were to remain employed at Nation Consulting, because the founder of that organization was the head of a 501(c)(4) organization that gave money to groups that support Republicans and their destructive far-right agenda.

Let me finish this post by saying two things about Rae and his supporters. One, Rae’s supporters are some of the most vile people I’ve ever interacted with online. Two, Rae completely lacks the temperament to be in a Democratic Party leadership position of any kind.

Jeff Smith outlines what he’d do if elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

Make no mistake about it, Former Wisconsin State Representative Jeff Smith has an actual plan of what he’d do if elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chairperson, and he’s going to run the party as a progressive organization whose main goals are helping progressive-minded people vote and promoting progressive values across the entire state of Wisconsin.

Smith, if elected to lead the Democratic Party in the state that will likely decide control of the White House and the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections, has promised to:

  • Work with whoever is elected to be the new leader of the DPW County Chairs Association (DPW CCA)
  • Direct county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin to help voters obtain Voter IDs in order to allow them to vote (Wisconsin’s discriminatory Voter ID law will go into effect at the next election of any kind held in Wisconsin)
  • Implement new DPW messaging based on recommendations by Scott Wittkopf of the Forward Institute
  • Provide proper support for Democratic candidates, campaign managers, and volunteers in Wisconsin
  • Open year-round DPW field offices in every region of Wisconsin
  • Help county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin maintain a strong online presence

Notice that Smith made absolutely no mention of Scott Walker in his press release. That’s because Walker is no longer trying to hide the fact that he doesn’t care about Wisconsinites, and that provides a great opportunity for Wisconsin Democrats to lay out their own vision for Wisconsin’s future.

Jeff Smith is the only one of the five candidates for DPW Chair who, at least to my knowledge, has laid out a highly-detailed plan for rebuilding the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and that’s why I encourage DPW Convention delegates to vote for Jeff Smith.

Martha Laning: The Corporate Candidate for Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

It’s official: Martha Laning, who we last saw running unsuccessfully for a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate and running television ads claiming that far-right Republicans, who have, over the past few years, implemented a destructive agenda that has hurt Wisconsin’s economy and reputation, have “good ideas”, is running for state party chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW). Additionally, political fundraiser Mary Lang Sollinger officially dropped out of the race for DPW Chair on the same day Laning entered the race.

Since not long after current DPW Chairman Mike Tate decided not to run for re-election after leaving the DPW in shambles after six years of his failed leadership, Jason Rae, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member, has been the insider candidate for DPW Chair. Now, Martha Laning is the corporate candidate for DPW Chair.

Laning has only recently entered the race for DPW Chair, but she’s already made a noticeable campaign blunder. Laning unveiled a campaign website that includes a “Why I’m Running” page riddled with grammar errors, such as failing to properly capitalize the first letters in the words “Democratic Party” more than once, referring to northern Wisconsin as “the north woods” instead of “the Northwoods”, and using the past tense verb “needed” to refer to elections that are scheduled to take place in the future. Additionally, the “Values” page of her campaign website also includes grammar errors, including using the grammatically incorrect phrase “equality opportunity” when either “equality and opportunity” or “equal opportunity” would be grammatically correct. I find it shocking that someone who was a business executive prior to entering politics would make repeated grammar errors on a campaign website for a state Democratic Party leadership post.

Regarding some of the promises that Laning has already made as a DPW Chair candidate, I do like a couple of ideas that Laning has, including expanding the geographical distribution of DPW staffers across the state, instead of having most or all of the party’s staffers in one city, and supporting year-round DPW offices, something that at least one other DPW Chair candidate, Jeff Smith, also supports. However, there are some terrible ideas that Laning has. One of Laning’s terrible ideas is to deepen the DPW’s relationships with partner organizations, and Laning cited Wisconsin Progress and Fair Wisconsin as two organizations that she wants the DPW to work more closely with. While I know very little about Wisconsin Progress, outside of the fact that they’re an organization that trains Democratic candidates to run for public office in Wisconsin, the fact that Laning wants the DPW to be more closely tied to Fair Wisconsin sets off alarm bells to any progressive who has followed Wisconsin politics for the past few years. While Fair Wisconsin is a pro-LGBT rights organization, and LGBT rights are supported by nearly all Wisconsin Democrats, Fair Wisconsin has received a lot of its funding from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who has implemented a right-wing corporate agenda as the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county. Among the things that Abele has done as Milwaukee County Executive include vetoing nearly every item of progressive legislation that the progressive-controlled Milwaukee County Board has passed, strongly opposing worker’s rights, publicly opposing efforts to put a non-binding referendum on the Milwaukee County ballot calling for a federal constitutional amendment to get rid of the undue influence of money in politics, and attempting to convince the Republicans who control the Wisconsin State Legislature to prevent counties from passing living wage ordinances. The fact that Laning wants the DPW to partner with an organization that is funded heavily by someone like Chris Abele indicates to me that Laning is not one bit serious about moving the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in a more progressive direction.

Purported Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson candidate Martha Laning ran ad praising Republicans during failed state senate campaign

If you thought the consultant class’s candidate for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Jason Rae, was bad, it’s being reported that, believe it or not, a candidate who is arguably as bad as Jason Rae is going to enter the race for DPW chair.

Martha Laning, who lost a Wisconsin State Senate race in the Manitowoc/Sheboygan region of the state last year by a huge margin to far-right Republican and corporate media hack Devin LeMahieu, reportedly intends to announce a bid for DPW chair sometime later today at the DPW County Chairs Association (DPW CCA) meeting in Plover, Wisconsin, and that political fundraiser Mary Lang Sollinger will drop out of the race at or around the same time Laning announces her bid for DPW chair. This is being reported by two authors of the Wisconsin-based progressive blog Blogging Blue, citing unnamed sources.

During her failed state senate campaign, Laning ran a campaign that was completely out of touch with reality. Despite all of the damage that far-right Republican Scott Walker did in his first term as Governor of Wisconsin, including busting unions, forcing Wisconsin women who wish to have an abortion undergo a forced ultrasound, repealing Wisconsin’s equal pay law, giving out corporate welfare to political cronies, and gutting public education, Laning ran a TV ad for her state senate campaign in which she praised Republicans and bizarrely claimed that Republicans have good ideas:

Having watched the ad on YouTube at least once during her state senate campaign that I can remember (I don’t live in Wisconsin, so the only way I can view Wisconsin-based political ads is if the candidates themselves upload them to a website where non-Wisconsinites can view them), watching that ad nearly made me vomit, to be honest with you. I’ve never seen a Democrat run an ad that was as out of touch with political reality as the one Laning ran in her Wisconsin State Senate campaign last year.

Steve Carlson of Blogging Blue reported that Laning moderated an event that was billed by Laning and 3rd Congressional District of Wisconsin Chairwoman Lisa Herman as a Democratic forum in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and it appears that someone was pulling quite a few strings for Laning:

What’s interesting about this impending announcement is that Laning made an appearance not quite two weeks ago in Stevens Point, not far from Plover, at what was billed by both her and 3rd congressional district Chair Lisa Hermann as a Democratic Forum, ostensibly held to chart a path forward for democrats across Wisconsin. But here’s where it gets curious.

Laning moderated the event the entire day, which lasted maybe seven hours. Not Lisa Hermann, a long time democrat and CD Chair, not Penny Bernard Schaber, who was in attendance, nor any of the other long time democrats who were in attendance, but Martha Laning, a woman whose engaged involvement with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, as far as I know, consists of a single run for state senate over the last couple of years. And she was up in front of the crowd the entire day. Hmmm.

And what’s even more curious is that all of the announced candidates for Chair of the DPW were encouraged to attend, and most of them did, but they were informed in advance that they would not be allowed to speak to the assembled gathering, nor were they to hand out any literature regarding their respective campaigns. Hmmmmmm.

Furthermore, Zach Wisniewski of Blogging Blue reported that Laning’s yet-to-be-announced candidacy for DPW chair is backed by the “money people” within the DPW who want a chairperson who will serve them and not rank-and-file Wisconsin Democrats, and that Laning herself is not strongly progressive when it comes to labor unions, economic policy, and abortion:

According to my source, Laning’s candidacy would represent efforts by the “money people” within the party to elect the DPW Chair they want. “They want to make someone chair who has been a member for less than two years and is totally unreliable on labor, economic issues, abortion rights, etc. It’s unbelievable,” said the source, noting Joe Wineke, Jeff Smith, and Jason Rae are all reliably progressive while in the opinion of my source Martha Laning isn’t as reliably progressive.

Corporate Democrats like Mary Burke and Martha Laning tried a strategy in 2014 of praising Republicans and running away from progressives, labor unions, and the middle class at nearly every opportunity, and it failed miserably in Wisconsin and many other states because it did nothing to win over persuadable voters while turning off progressives to the point that many of them didn’t vote in the November 2014 elections. Either Jason Rae or Martha Laning would be as big of a disaster, if not even more of a disaster, as DPW chair than Mike Tate has been for the past six years. Given how important Wisconsin is to the 2016 elections, Wisconsin, and, for that matter, America, can’t afford a DPW chair candidate who would run the same failed strategy or an even worse strategy.

Jeff Smith launches campaign for Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairperson with some interesting ideas

Former Democratic Wisconsin State Representative and YouTube legend Jeff Smith is the third person that I’m aware of to formally launch a campaign for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW). Smith sent out this email to his supporters outlining his vision for the DPW and what he’d do if elected DPW chair:

Dear Democrats,

I’m writing to let all of you know that I’m running to be the next chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. I made this decision because our party is in trouble and we need someone with the grit, determination, resolve and experience required to get us back on track. I strongly believe I’m that person and I’ll tell you why.

I’m the only candidate for DPW Chair who has won a seat in the legislature against a long serving Republican in a republican leaning Assembly district. I did that in 2006 by running my own campaign, with my own local volunteers, raising my own money, developing my own messaging, and by talking with voters from dawn until dusk. I’ll bring that kind of work ethic to my job as DPW Chair.

I’ve also served as a Regional Political Director for the DPW. I’ve seen firsthand what does and doesn’t work. There are changes we need to make in how the party functions and I know how to implement those changes.

The 2012 election results showed us that there are more democrats who vote in Wisconsin than there are republicans, but not all of those voters go to the polls in the mid-term elections. This has turned our state government to a deep red. How do we begin to turn that around?

Messaging. Our platform and resolutions contain bold policy ideas that resonate deeply with a broad swath of voters, but our candidates tend to rely on highly paid consultants for their messaging. This has to change. We need strong county parties that can educate voters about the policy positions grassroots democrats embrace, and that can influence our candidates to promote those policies. Strengthening our county party infrastructure is of the utmost importance and priority.

The outgoing chair campaigned for the job in past years by stating that we need year round organizing and a 72 county strategy; great ideas that never came to realization. I will make that a greater focus. One of our biggest problems is not in raising money but rather in how we’re spending what money we have. I’ll start by breaking down the budget to find the money we need to staff multiple field coordinator positions in key areas around the state. I will put my money where my mouth is by cutting the salary of the state chair position and use the savings to fund full-time field coordinators. These field coordinators will work with county party officials, activists and allies to develop outreach strategies to find, educate and engage new and sporadic voters on a year round basis.

Pride in being a Democrat is essential. I want every progressive and liberal thinking person in Wisconsin to boast about being a Democrat. Just as I want laborers to be filled with pride in belonging to a union, I want the professionals in our classrooms to hold their head high and proclaim to be a teacher without having to feel that they should be ashamed. It is up to us as leaders of the Democratic Party to make that happen. First we restore trust, respect and fight, which will equate into pride in ourselves and in our party.

We all should be very grateful to our brothers and sisters in Dane and Milwaukee counties, but we can’t take this state back with only democratic majorities in Dane and Milwaukee. We need a leader who understands the concerns and challenges rural Wisconsin people and voters face. We also need a leader who will take a bold and creative approach to strengthening our party in rural Wisconsin.

I am that leader. I’ve lived in the Chippewa Valley my entire life. I owned a small business for 25 years in the Eau Claire area and raised a family there, and as a Regional Political Director I’ve traveled across all of western, northwestern and central Wisconsin to hear from rural people about the issues that matter to them. It was a good mix of urban and rural voters that sent me to the legislature.

These are just a few of the ideas, strategies and leadership qualities that I’ll bring to the job as your next Chair. As I travel the state in the next few months I look forward to hearing from all of you. Together we can start down the path that will return Wisconsin to its progressive roots. Let’s do it.

Sincerely,

Jeff Smith

While I live in a neighboring state, Wisconsin is very important to the November 2016 elections on a national level, due to the fact that Wisconsin could decide which party controls the White House and the U.S. Senate. There are a few things I strongly liked about Smith’s vision for the DPW. First, Smith promises that, if elected DPW chair, the DPW would strongly emphasize progressive ideals and values, instead of consultant-driven campaigns, on his watch. Second, Smith promises that, if elected DPW chair, he’d cut the chair’s salary, which is currently in the low-six figures. Third, Smith promises to run an actual 72-county strategy in Wisconsin instead of running a 72-county lip service strategy like what the current chairman, Mike Tate, who is not running for re-election, has run for the last six years.

While, in my opinion, Joe Wineke and Jeff Smith are two good candidates for DPW chair, I’m not going to endorse a candidate for DPW chair yet, since there’s a certain individual who is believed to be considering running for DPW chair, and I think that certain individual would be a fantastic chairperson for the DPW if that certain individual were to run for DPW chair and win…

Joe Wineke proposes brilliant plan to rebuild the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

With Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chairman Mike Tate leaving office later this year, there’s two candidates already running for the office of DPW chairperson.

One of them is Jason Rae, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member from Milwaukee. There are several red flags that pop up in my head when I think about Rae’s candidacy. First off, the fact that he’s a DNC member means that he’s associated with a national party that lost complete control of Congress over the past four years under the failed leadership of Tim Kaine and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Secondly, Rae’s Wikipedia page states that Rae’s lifelong goal is to be President of the United States (this is sourced to a 2004 Boston Globe article that is behind a paywall), which tells me that Rae is more concerned about gaining more political power for himself than actually building the Democratic Party in Wisconsin, a critical swing state in modern American politics. Thirdly, Rae, unusually for a candidate for a state party office, has a full-fledged campaign website, and, while I like the use of online resources to campaign for party offices, Rae’s campaign platform is full of the typical Mike Tate-style talking points that Wisconsin progressives have had to put up with for the past six years, such few specifics about how he’d run the DPW and a ton of empty rhetoric about reenergizing the party and winning over rural and suburban voters, two things that the DPW has been terrible at under Tate’s failed leadership. Last, but certainly not least, the front page of Rae’s campaign website is a splash page that includes a link to donate money to his campaign for DPW chair, which tells me that Rae is trying to buy the DPW chair, and I fear that, if Rae is elected, he would run the party in a corrupt manner.

The other candidate in the race so far is Joe Wineke of Verona, who served two largely successful terms as DPW chair from 2005 to 2009 and is running for a third non-consecutive term. Not only does Wineke have an actual winning track record, he also has a detailed plan to rebuild the Democratic Party of Wisconsin from the bottom up, which is how a political party should be run:

First…let’s quit playing defense all the time.

The public agrees with us on the issues, but we are constantly letting Republicans define the message, and by definition, defining us.  We do that by playing offense.

Second…we do that through messaging.

Message matters.  We need to create an “Opportunity Agenda” based on putting people first.  Our “Opportunity Agenda” will be based on economic, educational, and equal opportunity for all.  In musical terms, we must create a symphonic message based on these themes.  Variations to our symphonic theme will be based on:

  • Economic Security: People know they are falling behind.  We, as Democrats, have not given enough people the belief that we will help them succeed.  Supporting the working class is paramount to their security.  Better wages, reducing student loan debt, support for the right to collectively bargain, making housing more affordable and attainable need to be key to that effort.
  • Educational Opportunity: Democrats need to stand behind public schools.  Let the Republicans side with the rich and powerful on this issue.  We need to remind people that public dollars should go to public schools…period.  Rural schools in Wisconsin have reached a crisis point.  If we quit playing on the edges and show the public whose side we are on, we can win this issue.  We are currently losing it.  I believe that the Democratic Party renaissance will begin in rural Wisconsin and the issue is education.
  • Equal Opportunity: Political parties must stand powerfully behind core issues.  Equal opportunity for all, whether one is straight, gay, black, white, Native American, or anything else must be defined by Democrats.  Republicans have been allowed to pander to prejudice for too long.  Let it define them and define us.

If handled properly, the core issues of the “Opportunity Agenda” will rise to a message crescendo that will help lead us to victory in 2016 and beyond.  Of course, there will be other issues that will matter in our fight to reclaim Wisconsin, but it is far better to stick to a handful of powerful issues than to get bogged down in a hundred battles at once.

Third…we need to rebuild our Party from the bottom up.

Neither a “top down” Party, nor a “top down” message, resonates with average people.  We need to create a better message, more effectively using modern communication mediums on social media, like Facebook and Twitter.  I propose the creation of a Social Media Advisory Council within the Party to create a daily message based on our “Opportunity Agenda”.

Fourth…there is an old saying that states, “You can’t beat somebody, with nobody”.

When I was Chair, we fielded a variety of candidates in every legislative and local race we could, not just competing in the “so called” competitive seats.  Not to mention, we were pretty darn successful in doing it, filling the vast majority of seats for the Assembly and Senate.  In 2014, we left 31 of 60 Assembly Republicans off with “free rides”.  If I am elected Chair, those days are over.  We won’t win a lot of those seats, but we might just steal a few.  In addition, it is a smart way to build a local party base that will likely increase our percentages in GOP counties enough to get a few more percentage points at the top of the ticket.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (MJS), a bastion of media bias in Wisconsin, published this piece about Wineke and Rae entering the race for DPW chair which featured Rae’s announcement prominently and only made a passing mention of Wineke’s announcement. Given that MJS has long been in the tank for Scott Walker and other Wisconsin Republicans, that’s a clear indication that they think that Rae will continue Tate’s legacy of being an asset for the Republicans.

While I don’t live in Wisconsin, it is indisputable that Wisconsin is one of the more important states to the Democratic Party, mainly due to Wisconsin being a swing state in recent years, which is why I’m writing about the DPW chair race.

While I do have a few qualms about Wineke, such as the fact that he was once a corporate lobbyist for AT&T, Wineke is, in my opinion, the best candidate for DPW chair among those currently in the race because of his winning track record and solid plan to build. Because there is the possibility that one or more other candidates could enter the race, I’m not going to publicly endorse a candidate for DPW chair yet.

 

Mike Tate NOT running for another term as Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman

After a dismal six years at the helm of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), Mike Tate, the chairman of the DPW, will not seek another two-year term as DPW chairman and does not intend to publicly endorse a successor.

This could result in a potentially wide-open race for DPW chair, in fact, former DPW chairman Joe Wineke, who served two terms from 2005 to 2009, is already running for his old job. While Wineke actually has a winning track record, he’s a former corporate lobbyist, which won’t play well with many on the left in Wisconsin. Additionally, Wineke told Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that “as many as nine people” are considering running for DPW chair; Bice revealed that two of them are Democratic National Committee (DNC) member Jason Rae of Milwaukee and Democratic fundraiser Mary Lang Sollinger of Madison. Rae is viewed by many on the left as Mike Tate 2.0. Regarding Sollinger, I know virtually nothing about her.

It’s not clear who four of the other seven who are considering running for DPW chair are, although I do have information about three of these individuals.

One of those who are considering running is Washington County Democratic Party chairwoman Tanya Lohr. Lohr’s tenure as the chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin’s most Republican county has been awful, as she, apparently under Tate’s orders, sabotaged an attempt by Nick Stamates to get on the ballot in the upcoming 20th State Senate District of Wisconsin special election. Since Stamates didn’t obtain enough signatures to get on the ballot, the special election will have no Democratic candidate.

Another possible candidate is former two-term State Representative Jeff Smith of Eau Claire. Smith stated that he is considering a run for DPW chair in an interview by Zachary Wisniewski of the Wisconsin progressive blog Blogging Blue last month; you can read the interview here.

Another possible candidate is former State Representative Amy Sue Vruwink of Milladore. Vruwink hasn’t made any public statements regarding the DPW chair’s race that I’m aware of, although I’ve seen online comments from a couple of people with knowledge of Wisconsin politics social media contacts that Vruwink is considering running for DPW chair. The DPW sent out a pro-Scott Walker mailer featuring Vruwink in the 2014 elections, and Vrwuink lost re-election to a far-right Republican.

I have no clue regarding who the other four people Wineke was referring to are, and, if somebody who I did not name is considering running for DPW chair, please let me know by leaving a comment on here.

Who will emerge as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s standard-bearer?

Currently, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) lacks a true standard bearer of any kind. This is because Democrats have virtually no power in Wisconsin state government: not counting federal offices like U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats (Democrats hold one of the two U.S. Senate seats and three of the eight U.S. House seats in Wisconsin) and officially non-partisan offices like state superintendent (which is held by a de facto Democrat who is ideologically center-left), Democrats are in the minority in both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature and, of the five officially partisan state executive offices, only the nearly powerless office of secretary of state is controlled by Democrats.

Steven Walters of WisconsinEye (basically a Wisconsin version of C-SPAN) named a long list of Democrats in this column for Milwaukee-area webgazine Urban Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago, some of which could emerge as a standard-bearer of the DPW:

  • State Senate Minority Leader-designate Jennifer Shilling: Shilling, who is from La Crosse in the western part of the state, was recently elected to be the new Democratic floor leader in the Wisconsin State Senate after the previous Democratic floor leader, Chris Larson, meddled in a Democratic primary in a state senate race in the southwestern part of the state, which pissed off progressives and led to an ultra-conservative Republican winning the general election. Shilling has represented the La Crosse area and rural areas to the south of La Crosse in the state senate since winning a 2011 recall election. I don’t expect Shilling to have a ton of influence on the state party beyond the Democratic state senate caucus, although she could emerge as a regional standard-bearer in the western part of Wisconsin.
  • U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin: Baldwin, who is from Madison, is the highest-ranking Democratic elected official in Wisconsin. However, Baldwin hasn’t shown any interest in building the state Democratic Party organization, and she has mostly been a backbencher in the U.S. Senate in her first two years in office. Walters implied that Baldwin could have a considerable amount of influence over the state party, including having influence over whether or DPW Chairman Mike Tate runs for another term, in the coming years.
  • Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate: Tate has been the DPW Chairman since 2009. However, Tate is absolutely hated by the progressive base of the party, and he’s built up a losing track record in the six years he’s been on the job. Additionally, Tate could decide not to run for another term as DPW Chairman, in fact, there have been high-grade rumors that Tate will step down at the end of his current term in June of next year, but Tate has been trying to deny those rumors in recent weeks. Tate is too tainted to be a standard-bearer of the state party.
  • Former Governor Jim Doyle: Doyle, who is from Madison, was Governor of Wisconsin for two terms from 2003 to 2011, and is now a partner at the law firm Foley & Lardner, which is now represented in Wisconsin state-level politics by a Republican lobbyist. Doyle has played a mostly behind-the-scenes role in the state party since leaving electoral politics, and Doyle remains unpopular in Wisconsin, even with many in his own party, so he’s not going to re-emerge as any kind of standard-bearer of the party.
  • U.S. Representative Ron Kind: Kind, who is from La Crosse, has represented much of the western part of Wisconsin in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997. Kind is one of two Democrats (the other being former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold) who are believed to be considering running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Ron Johnson in 2016, in fact, Walters indicated there is a gentlemen’s agreement (or a de facto one) that Kind runs against Johnson if and only if Feingold doesn’t run against Johnson. Kind is already the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party in his region of the state (he’s built up a ton of institutional loyalty that has allowed him to win re-election by larger than normal margins despite having a centrist voting record that would normally result in Kind drawing progressive primary challengers, something that Kind has been able to avoid). However, Kind has repeatedly turned down opportunities to run statewide in recent years, so I doubt that he’d actually run against Johnson.
  • Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold: Feingold, who is from Middleton in the south-central part of the state, served three terms in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2011 and is now a U.S. State Department envoy. Feingold reportedly plans to return to Wisconsin sometime early next year, and he could run for his old U.S. Senate seat. Feingold is still very well-liked by the progressive base of the party, although Feingold is not a party-building type of person that could become a standard-bearer of the state party.
  • U.S. Representative Gwen Moore: Moore, who is from Milwaukee, has represented Milwaukee and nearby suburbs in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2005. Moore has never shown any interest in building the state party outside of the Milwaukee area, where she’s been a standard-bearer of the Democratic Party in that part of the state for years.
  • U.S. Representative Mark Pocan: Pocan, who is from Madison, has represented much of south-central Wisconsin in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2013. As Walters noted, Pocan is more interested in building the Democratic Party at the national level than the state level. While Pocan is one of several individuals who may run for U.S. Senate in the event that neither Russ Feingold nor Ron Kind run, he’s not going to emerge as a standard-bearer of the DPW.
  • Madison School Board Member Mary Burke: Burke, who is from Madison, has been a member of the school board in Wisconsin’s second-largest school district since 2012 and was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor this year, losing to Republican incumbent Scott Walker. Burke has publicly stated that she’s done with statewide politics, so her influence over the state party will be minimal, probably limited to donating money to Democrats.
  • Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ: Happ, who is from Jefferson in the south central part of the state, was the Democratic Party’s nominee for attorney general this year, losing to Republican candidate Brad Schimel. Happ has kept a very low profile since the November elections, but, if Happ were to run for re-election to the Jefferson County DA’s post, she would probably be the #1 Republican target in the entire state in 2016. It’s not clear as to exactly how much of a role Happ wants in building the state party, although she’s never struck me as a party-building type of person.
  • State Senator Bob Jauch: Jauch, who is from Poplar in the northwestern part of the state, is retiring from the Wisconsin State Senate after having served seven terms from 1987 onward. Jauch may have some limited influence over the Democratic Party in the northern part of the state, but that would be it.
  • State Assembly Assistant Minority Leader-designate Katrina Shankland: Shankland, who is from Stevens Point in the central part of the state, has represented much of Portage County in the state assembly since 2013 and is only 27 years old. Shankland has indicated that, despite representing a very progressive district, she intends to develop a centrist style of leadership that could alienate progressives, possibly hindering any effort by her to become a standard-bearer of the DPW.
  • State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca: Barca, who is from Kenosha in the southeastern part of the state, has represented parts of Kenosha area in the state assembly since 2008 and is the Democratic floor leader in the state assembly. Prior to that, Barca was the U.S. Representative for the Janesville/Racine/Kenosha region of the state for less than a full term from 1993 to 1995. Barca has quite a bit of influence over the state assembly Democrats’ campaign efforts, but his influence over the state party doesn’t extend beyond that.
  • State Representative Evan Goyke: Goyke, who is from Milwaukee, has represented part of Milwaukee in the state assembly since 2013. Goyke unsuccessfully challenged Peter Barca for state assembly minority leader after this year’s elections. Goyke is probably on the outs in the eyes of the party establishment, so he’s, more than likely, not going to have any role in building the state party.
  • Dane County Executive Joe Parisi: Parisi, who is from Madison, has been the county executive of Wisconsin’s second largest county since 2011. Walters indicated that Parisi wants to play a bigger role in the state party’s future, but it’s not clear what role Parisi wants to play.
  • Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson: Nelson, who is from Kaukauna in the northeastern part of the state, has been the county executive of Outagamie County since 2011. Prior to that, Nelson was the Democratic Party’s unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010 and served in the state assembly from 2005 to 2011. Walters indicated that Nelson wants to play a bigger role in the state party’s future, but it’s not clear what role Nelson wants to play.

Additionally, some other individuals who Walters did not name could emerge as the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. I’ll go ahead and name some of them:

  • State Representative Chris Taylor: Taylor, who is from Madison, has represented parts of the Madison area in the state assembly since 2011. Taylor has a very large following among progressives in Wisconsin, although she declined to run for statewide office this year and has, in recent months, kept a somewhat lower profile than early on in her career in the state assembly. However, Taylor is rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2018. It’s not exactly clear as to how much of a role Taylor wants in the future of the DPW, although she seems to be very ambitious.
  • State Representative Melissa Sargent: Sargent, who is from Madison, has represented parts of the Madison area in the state assembly since 2013. Sargent is very well-respected among Wisconsin progressives, and she has been very vocal on a number of issues in recent months. More importantly, Sargent is very ambitious and appears to be interested in playing some sort of party-building role in Wisconsin.
  • Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele: Abele, who is from Milwaukee, has been the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county since 2011. Abele is rumored to be considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2016 and is a large DPW donor, however, he’s absolutely hated by progressives for a large number of reasons, and he’s seen as a divisive figure within the party, which will hinder any attempt by Abele to put his stamp on the DPW.

Additionally, there’s the possibility that some little-known political figure could come from total or near-total obscurity and emerge as a powerful force in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

It will be interesting to see who, if anybody, emerges as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s standard-bearer in the coming months and years.